Chapter 6: Experience Design
User experience design (UX, UXD, UED or XD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product. User experience design encompasses traditional human–computer interaction (HCI) design, and extends it by addressing all aspects of a product or service as perceived by users.
User experience design includes elements of interaction design, information architecture, user research, and other disciplines, and is concerned with all facets of the overall experience delivered to users. Following is a short analysis of its constituent parts.
Visual design, also commonly known as graphic design, user interface design, communication design, and visual communication, represents the aesthetics or look-and-feel of the front end of any user interface. Graphic treatment of interface elements is often perceived as the visual design. The purpose of visual design is to use visual elements like colors, images, and symbols to convey a message to its audience. Fundamentals of Gestalt psychology and visual perception give a cognitive perspective on how to create effective visual communication.
In the context of information architecture, information is separate from both knowledge and data, and lies nebulously between them. It is information about objects. The objects can range from websites, to software applications, to images et al. It is also concerned with metadata: terms used to describe and represent content objects such as documents, people, process, and organizations.
Structuring, organization, and labeling
Structuring is reducing information to its basic building units and then relating them to each other. Organization involves grouping these units in a distinctive and meaningful manner. Labeling means using appropriate wording to support easy navigation and findability.
Finding and managing
Findability is the most critical success factor for information architecture. If users are not able to find required information without browsing, searching or asking, then the findability of the information architecture fails. Navigation needs to be clearly conveyed to ease finding of the contents.
There are many key factors to understanding interaction design and how it can enable a pleasurable end user experience. It is well recognized [clarification needed] that building great user experience requires interaction design to play a pivotal role in helping define what works best for the users. High demand for improved user experiences and strong focus on the end-users have made interaction designers critical in conceptualizing design that matches user expectations and standards of the latest UI patterns and components. While working, interaction designers take several things in consideration. A few of them are:
- Creating the layout of the interface
- Defining interaction patterns best suited in the context
- Incorporating user needs collected during user research into the designs
- Features and information that are important to the user
- Interface behavior like drag-drop, selections, and mouse-over actions
- Effectively communicating strengths of the system
- Making the interface intuitive by building affordances
- Maintaining consistency throughout the system.
In the last few years, the role of interaction designer has shifted from being just focused on specifying UI components and communicating them to the engineers to a situation now where designers have more freedom to design contextual interfaces which are based on helping meet the user needs. Therefore, User Experience Design evolved into a multidisciplinary design branch that involves multiple technical aspects from motion graphics design and animation to programming.
Usability is the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.
Usability is attached with all tools used by humans and is extended to both digital and non-digital devices. Thus, it is a subset of user experience but not wholly contained. The section of usability that intersects with user experience design is related to humans’ ability to use a system or application. Good usability is essential to a positive user experience but does not alone guarantee it.
Human–computer interaction is concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use and with the study of major phenomena surrounding them.
Human–computer interaction is the main contributor to user experience design because of its emphasis on human performance rather than mere usability. It provides key research findings which inform the improvement of systems for the people. Human-computer interaction extends its study towards more integrated interactions, such as tangible interactions, which is generally not covered in the practice of user experience. User experience cannot be manufactured or designed; it has to be incorporated in the design. Understanding the user’s emotional quotient plays a key role while designing a user experience. The first step while designing the user experience is determining the reason a visitor will be visiting the website or use the application in question. Then the user experience can be designed accordingly.
User experience design incorporates most or all of the above disciplines to positively impact the overall experience a person has with a particular interactive system and its provider. User experience design most frequently defines a sequence of interactions between a user (individual person) and a system, virtual or physical, designed to meet or support user needs and goals, primarily, while also satisfying systems requirements and organizational objectives.
Typical outputs include:
- Persona (an archetypal user for whom the product or service is being designed)
- Wireframes (screen blueprints or storyboards)
- Prototypes (for interactive or in-the-mind simulation)
- Written specifications (describing the behavior or design)
- Site audit (usability study of existing assets)
- Flows and navigation maps
- User stories or scenarios
- Sitemaps and content inventory
- High-fidelity visual mockups (precise visual layout and design of the expected product or interface)
General design process
While designing a product or service for a client, it is of utmost importance that the designers are on the same page as the client. All the information collected, plans made, design executed will reflect on the final product. Rigorous analysis must be done before proceeding to the design stage and then numerous testings done to optimize the site as per best standards so that the competitive edge is maintained. Leading Digital marketing companies combine three elements to provide the best responsive product to the customer. These are:
- Researching about the target audience
- Understanding the company’s business goals
- And most importantly apply out of the box thinking.
Brainstorming and testing ultimately leads them to finalize the design for their customers. Let’s have a detailed look at the step by step process of product design:
- Collecting information about the problem
The UX designer needs to find out as much as they can about people, processes, and products before the design phase. Designers can do this by meeting with the clients or business stakeholders frequently to know what their requirements are, or by conducting interviews with users in their home or work spaces. This kind of qualitative research helps designers create products and services that better serve user needs.
- Getting ready to design
After research, the designer must make sense of the data they’ve collected. Typically this is done through modeling of the users and their environments. User modeling or personas are composite archetypes based on behavior patterns uncovered during research. Personas provide designers a precise way of thinking and communicating about how groups of users behave, how they think, what they want to accomplish and why. Once created, personas help the designer to understand the users’ goals in specific contexts, which is particularly useful during ideation and for validating design concepts. Other types of models include work flow models, artifact models, and physical models.
When the designer has a firm grasp on the user’s needs and goals, they begin to sketch out the interaction framework (also known as wireframes). This stage defines the high-level structure of screen layouts, as well as the product’s flow, behavior, and organization. There are many kinds of materials that can be involved in during this iterative phase, from whiteboards to paper prototypes. As the interaction framework establishes an overall structure for product behavior, a parallel process focused on the visual and industrial designs. The visual design framework defines the experience attributes, visual language, and the visual style.
Once a solid and stable framework is established, wireframes are translated from sketched storyboards to full-resolution screens that depict the user interface at the pixel level. At this point, it’s critical for the programming team to collaborate closely with the designer. Their input is necessary to creating a finished design that can and will be built while remaining true to the concept.
- Test and iterate
Usability testing is carried out through prototypes. The target users are given various tasks to perform on the prototypes. Any issues or problems faced by the users are collected as field notes and these notes are used to make changes in the design and reiterate the testing phase. Usability testing is, at its core, a means to “evaluate, not create”.
UX designers’ main goal is to solve the end-users’ problems, and thus the ability to communicate the design to stakeholders and developers is critical to the ultimate success of the design. Regarding UX specification documents, these requirements depend on the client or the organization involved in designing a product. The four major deliverables are: a title page, an introduction to the feature, wireframes and a version history. Depending on the type of project, the specification documents can also include flow models, cultural models, personas, user stories, scenarios and any prior user research. Documenting design decisions, in the form of annotated wireframes, gives the developer the necessary information they may need to successfully code the project.